STEM OPT Extension
F-1 students on Post-Completion OPT who have a degree in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their Post-Completion OPT work authorization.
To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension:
- The F-1 student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of Post- Completion OPT.
- The student must be working in a paid position for a U.S. employer for a minimum of 20 hours per week in a job directly related to their major.
- The student must apply for the STEM OPT Extension before the current post completion period of OPT expires.
- Your eligibility is determined by the 6 digits that are listed on your I-20 in the Program of Study area; the numbers are listed with your Major 1 title. Then compare your 6 digits to the STEM-eligible fields listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Eligible Majors list. If your 6 digits do not appear on the STEM listing, it means that your program is not STEM eligible.
- The student’s employer must be registered with the E-Verify employment verification system and have a Federal Employment Identification Number (EIN).
STEM OPT Extension Filing Window
Students on Post-Completion OPT are able to file their STEM OPT Extension application up 90 days prior to their OPT expiration date, but may not do so once their OPT has expired. ISSS advises students to apply as early as possible, as the application submission itself is time-sensitive, and USCIS processing times are quite lengthy (minimum of 90 days).
Requesting a STEM OPT Extension
To request a STEM OPT Extension, please submit the following documents to email@example.com:
- Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
- A copy of your OPT card
You will need to work with your employer to complete Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. You should complete pages 1-4 only. Page 5 should be left blank, as it serves no purpose in the application process and instead will be used at a future time. Detailed instructions on how to complete Form I-983 can be found on the Department of Homeland Security website.
In addition to Form I-983, please be sure to also include a copy of your OPT card in your email.
*Please allow 5-7 business days for processing. All requests are processed in the order they are received. Please plan accordingly.
Eligibility Based On a Previously Obtained STEM Degree
If you are currently on Post-Completion OPT after having graduated from a degree program that is not STEM eligible, but you have previously earned a STEM eligible degree from an accredited university, you may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension under your previous degree. To qualify for this option:
- You must have received your previous degree from a currently accredited and SEVP-certified institution
- Your previous degree cannot have been conferred more than 10 years prior to your STEM OPT Extension application
- Your previous degree must be listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Eligible Majors list at the time of application
- You haven't already received a STEM OPT Extension based on this previous degree
- Your practical training opportunity is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to apply for a STEM OPT Extension based on a prior degree.
Once your request is submitted, ISSS will then recommend you for STEM OPT and provide you with an updated I-20 which will indicate that you are requesting STEM OPT. Please allow 5-7 business days for processing. All requests are processed in the order they are received. Please plan accordingly.
Along with the I-20, you will receive a checklist with instructions on how to submit your STEM OPT application to USCIS online.
Filing your STEM OPT application online
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that F-1 students applying for STEM OPT can now file their I-765 Form online. Online filing allows applicants to submit application documents electronically, pay the filing fee online, and receive an immediate receipt notice upon filing. Online applicants are also able to check the status of their case online, receive notices from USCIS online instead of waiting for them in the mail, and respond to Requests for Evidence more quickly.
*Note: You must first consult with ISSS to obtain a new I-20 BEFORE filing your STEM OPT application online with USCIS. In addition, you should proceed with the online application process very carefully. The online system allows you to submit your application without all required evidence, which can lead to requests for evidence and additional difficulties. This means that you must be very careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application. You must also be sure to submit your online application to USCIS no later than 60 days from the date your I-20 was issued, and prior to the end of your 60-day grace period following graduation.
Steps for Completing the I-765 Application Online
- Create your online USCIS account
- Gather the following documents:
- Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications. Photo requirements can be found online.
- Copy of your I-20 that includes a STEM OPT recommendation (Please be sure to sign and date your new I-20 on page one before photocopying)
- Copy of passport photo page
- Copy of visa
- Your most recent form I-94
- Copies of the front and back of any previous EAD cards
- Copies of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT authorization
- Copies of your STEM degree and official transcripts
- A credit card to pay the online filing fee
- File Form I-765 Online
- Complete the “Getting Started” and “About You” sections (For STEM OPT, please be sure to choose category C3C); be sure that you spell your name correctly and enter your date of birth in the order that is asked for on the application.
- Upload the documents listed above in the “Evidence” section
- Review and digitally sign your application
- Pay the application fee
- Submit your STEM OPT application
USCIS will issue an online receipt notice as soon as you submit your STEM OPT application packet. You are permitted to continue working for up to 180 days past your OPT expiration date while your STEM OPT Extension is pending. Please note that you must remain in the United States until a decision is made on your application. This usually takes about 90 days. In addition, USCIS has announced the availability of premium processing in some cases; please see that announcement here.
STEM OPT Extension Approval
If your STEM OPT Extension application is approved by USCIS, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document in the mail. This card, which is also referred to as the STEM OPT card, authorizes you to work in your field of study for the duration of the dates listed on the card.
NOTE #1: if you receive your EAD card but it contains an error due to a USCIS error (example: typo in name or incorrect birthdate), you must return the original EAD card to get it corrected by USCIS; this correction can take 30-45 days or longer. Click on this link and follow the information titled Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Make a copy of your EAD card before sending it for correction.
NOTE #2: if you receive your EAD card but it contains an error that you made, you will be required to reapply for STEM OPT and pay the application fees again.
In addition, SEVP will email you important account creation information regarding the SEVP Portal. The SEVP Portal is an important tool that assists students on STEM OPT with meeting their legal reporting requirements.
Reporting Requirements for the STEM OPT Extension (Validation Reporting)
Once you receive your STEM OPT card, please scan a copy to email@example.com. ISSS will then issue an updated I-20 which will state that your STEM OPT Extension request was approved.
Students on the STEM OPT Extension are required to report to their Designated School Official (DSO) every six months. This is referred to as “Validation Reporting”. You will receive automated messages from the SEVP Portal reminding you to complete these requirements when they are due.
To complete your validation reporting, please log into the SEVP Portal and verify that your home address and employment information are correct. You will then email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm this. Please remember that this must be done every six months.
If your home address is incorrect in the SEVP Portal, you may update it yourself in the portal. If your employer information is incorrect, please submit the necessary documents to email@example.com so that we can update your employment information for you. Please see below for instructions on how to make changes to your employment. Also, please remember that any changes in your home address or employment must be reported within 10 days.
In addition to the validation reporting that is due every six months, an Evaluation on Student Progress must be submitted 12 months after your STEM OPT starts, and again 24 months after your STEM OPT starts. The evaluations are to be submitted as follows to firstname.lastname@example.org (NOTE: BOTH yourself and your employer must sign and date your evaluations)
- 12-Month Evaluation on Student Progress- Top section of page 5 of Form I-983
- 24-Month Final Evaluation on Student Progress- Bottom section of page 5 of Form I-983
Changing, Updating, or Ending Your Employment on STEM OPT
If you would like to change from one employer to another, please email the following to email@example.com
- Form I-983 from your new employer (pages 1-4 only)
- Final Evaluation on Student Progress from your old employer (bottom section of page 5 of Form I-983)
If you would like to add a new employer, or edit your existing employment information, you will need to submit an updated Form I-983 (pages 1-4 only). You will also submit an updated Form I-983 if you are adding a second employer.
If you are ending employment for any reason, you will need to submit a Final Evaluation on Student Progress from your old employer. This evaluation can be found on the bottom section of page 5 of Form I-983.
In any case, please be sure to specify what changes or updates you are requesting to make when you submit your email to ISSS.
Changing Your Employer While STEM OPT Extension is Pending
Changing employers while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending is not recommended. Please note that a change may delay the application process or may even lead to a denial of your application.
If the employer change is absolutely necessary, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org along with the following:
- Form I-983 with the new employer's information (pages 1-4)
- Final Evaluation on Student Progress (bottom section of page 5 of Form I-983) from your old employer
- Form I-765 form with the new employer’s information
- Copy of your I-797 Receipt Notice from USCIS
Updating Your Home Address
Students on STEM OPT are required to report any changes in their home address within 10 days. Such reporting should be done via the SEVP Portal. Please be sure to make all necessary changes in the portal, and then email email@example.com to confirm these changes.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
The H-1B Cap-Gap Extension is available to students who are on approved STEM OPT and have a receipt notice (form I-797) for a pending or approved change of status for an H-1B. The Cap-Gap period falls between the end of a student’s F-1 STEM OPT status and the beginning of their H-1B status. The cap gap extension allows for students on OPT to extend their employment authorization until they transition to the H-1B status on October 1st or the date stated on the approval. If you currently have a pending or approved H-1B receipt notice and would like to request a Cap-Gap Extension, please email a copy of that I-797 notice to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are on STEM OPT, you will need to submit the Final Evaluation, page 5 of Form I-983 to email@example.com as close as possible to the start date of your H-1B status. This document is completed and signed by both yourself and your supervisor. Submission of this form completes your F-1 student status.
NOTE: SEVIS currently does not allow for Cap-Gap extensions for applications that are in the "filed" process; there must be a receipt notice.
- STEM OPT is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during their STEM OPT Extension.
- NOTE: Travel signatures while on STEM OPT are only valid for 6 months. If you would like to travel outside the United States after your STEM OPT Extension has been approved, you may do so. Prior to traveling, please check your I-20 to verify that your employment information is correct, and that you have a valid travel endorsement from a DSO. If you do not have a valid travel endorsement or you need to make any employment changes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also carry a letter from your employer which indicates that they know that you are traveling and will be returning to the US to "resume" employment. If you need to renew your visa while on STEM OPT, please remember that it is up the Embassy/Consulate to make the decision of renewal; it is not guaranteed.
- If you decide not to submit your STEM OPT Extension application, or you decide to end your STEM OPT period for any reason, you must notify ISSS by sending an email to email@example.com.
- Students are allowed to study part-time only while on STEM OPT. If you receive an I-20 to start a new full-time program, your STEM OPT Extension will automatically terminate.
- Students who are on STEM OPT are required to be covered by insurance. If your employer does not offer you insurance, you need to find your own insurance; a couple such companies are ISO Student Health Insurance (www.isoa.org) and International Student Insurance (www.InternationalStudentInsurance.com) DISCLAIMER: Florida Tech cannot recommend any insurance company to you and we have no further information on these two companies.